Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 3
In days gone by great leaders like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln called the nation for a day of prayer and humiliation, that is, repentance, and you know what? That's why God blessed this country. Sadly, today, nobody is calling the nation, certainly not among our political leaders, to prayer and repentance. May we call each other to prayer and repentance so that we may experience the blessing of God.
The Sheep Gate, here it is. That's the Sheep Gate. Can you see the sheep on the side there? That's where it all begins, the Sheep Gate. I'm gonna show you the wall as I keep on talking. Those are the gates in which people go in and out of the city of Jerusalem. Every so many yards there's a gate. One of those gates is that Sheep Gate, and it's really probably one of the most significant. In John chapter 5, Jesus healed the paralyzed man in the Siloam right next to the Sheep Gate. Jesus himself had to have gone through the Sheep Gate out into Golgotha.
Now the Bible does not say that he walked through the Sheep Gate, but most likely, and two reasons I'm gonna tell you why, he would have gone as he was bleeding, disfigured, carrying the crossbar on his shoulders, he would have gone through the Sheep Gate. There is a significance why Jesus went through that Sheep Gate because that Sheep Gate was the gate through which thousands upon thousands of sheep have gone through into the temple to be sacrificed for the people of God's sin. And all of these thousands of sheep would basically represent the prefiguring of the Lamb of God, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And that is why he would have walked through that but also because it's the nearest to Golgotha. There is a reason why Nehemiah in his memoirs, as he writes in this book inspired by the Holy Spirit, he says, "And they started at the Sheep Gate".
Our healing begins at the Sheep Gate. For us to have peace with God and peace with one another can never take place unless it is through the perfect Lamb of God who takes the sin of the world, and that all began at Calvary. There is no power to heal, in rebuilding any of the broken walls of our society today, of our culture today, of our homes today, and of our churches today other than the power of the perfect Lamb of God who died on that cross. And that is why Nehemiah chapter 3, the building of the broken walls of Jerusalem had to begin at the Sheep Gate, and as we seek to rebuild broken lives and broken relationships and broken churches and broken culture we must begin by Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God.
Now, I cannot exaggerate the importance of this chapter for us as a church today, and here in Nehemiah chapter 3 we learn one of the most important lessons for a Christ-centered, Bible-believing church. It's one of the most important lessons. Nehemiah's example of rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem is the perfect example for any of us who really, under the power of God, seek to rebuild any of the brokenness in our lives. Again, this word from the Word of God is for everyone. Nehemiah was not only a realist, that he was, but he was one of the first people to understand that the body of Christ needs everybody. The body needs everybody. Can you say that with me?
The body needs everybody. No one in the body of Christ... listen to me. No one could slacken or takes himself or herself out of the equation and out of the picture without harming the body of Christ. Throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament we read it again and again and again of the importance of every single member of the body to be in unity. We read about the tremendous blessings that can only come through the unity of the body. No wonder the psalmist said, "How beautiful it is when the brethren dwell together in unity"! There is a unique blessing. He goes on to enumerate them, unique blessings that come to individuals and to the group when they are together in unity. It is a tragic thing when anyone in the body says, "I am not important. What can I do? I'll leave the heavy lifting for others. I just wanna come and hear Michael preach and leave". I hear that. "They got so many gifted people in the church. They don't need me".
And so what do I make of all these names? Well, there are three principles in this chapter. Let me share them with you, and if you're taking notes write them down. There is consolidation, there is cooperation, and there is confirmation. Let's say them together. There is consolidation, cooperation, and confirmation, every one of those principles in magnificent display in this chapter. Let's look at them together. The first is consolidation. Throughout Nehemiah chapter 3 there's 1 phrase that is repeated over and over and over and over again, one phrase. In fact, that's the patent and it's the key to understanding this chapter. Verses 1 and 2, "Eliashib and the high priest and his fellow priests went to work in rebuilding the Sheep Gate". That's natural because that's where the sheep are gonna go in order to be sacrificed for the sins of the people.
Everything, as I said, begins at the Sheep Gate. Everything begins with first repairing your relationship with the perfect Lamb of God. It is whenever your relationship with the perfect Lamb of God is out of kilter, not only your life, not only your family, but also the church that you go to is out of kilter. Everything begins at the Sheep Gate. Then the statement is repeated, "And next to them," "And next to them," "And next to them," "And next to them," "And next to them". Did you count them? One of my colleagues did, 21 times here in chapter 3. Here's the literal translation from the Hebrew language, "At their hands," "At their hands".
What does that mean? It means that these people around the wall in family groupings, they were literally hand in hand. That's what it means. They're hand in hand. In other words, they were like a human chain without a break, without a gap. It's a human chain that had no division between them. It's a human chain with no disunity. Beloved, this is the secret to victorious living. It is the secret to a victorious church. In fact, the Apostle Paul makes the same argument in 1 Corinthians 16:16 and in 1 Thessalonians 5:12. Jesus is building and consolidating his church with your hand and mine, hand in hand. We have to work hand in hand. We have to serve side by side. We have to leave no gaps, no gaps. It doesn't mean that we don't agree on some things. Of course, but we're united on the very core of the gospel. We are united on the belief and inspiration and the infallibility of the Word of God.
Beloved, we get into trouble when we begin to forget that we are co-laborers with Christ, that we are coworkers with Christ, that we are to work as consolidated force, and that is why through the years those who could not unite with us on the heart of the gospel, those who could not unite with us on the infallibility of the Scripture, could not stay. If you look at Nehemiah 3... Actually there is a list of 39 names, 21 groupings, and you would not believe the diversity of this mob. I mean, they were as different as chalk and cheese, and yet each group was working on a certain section of the wall or a certain gate together hand in hand, even the priests who normally do not do windows. I mean, these guys do not do menial work. They have exchanged their vestments for a pair of overalls. They were getting their hands dirty.
Even powerful politicians were working side by side with the merchants and perfumers and the carpenters and the potters and on and on and on, worked together. They came from far or field. They were not a homogeneous group. I mean, they come as far, and those of you who know geography you'll understand. They came all the way from Jericho, and they came all the way from Gibeon, long distances, some of the noblemen working together with the blue collar workers hand in hand, men and women. In fact, you notice there's mention of some single women there. What a great way to meet single men doing the work of God. Why? Because, my beloved friend, listen to me. The ground at Calvary is level. There's no one greater than the other. There is no one higher than the other. Jesus did not build his church to be an arena for spectators. He has called every one of us to the playing field.
Jesus called every one of us to be an active member, to be part of the same body, part of the same team. Imagine an orchestra where every instrument player is actually playing a different tune. In the same way Jesus consolidates us in a single, united force. The only people that there's no room for are those who are too prideful to do the Lord's work. The task of building the walls of our culture, listen to me. The task of rebuilding the churches, the task of rebuilding the walls of bringing those who have lost their way back to Christ, the task of rebuilding broken lives, the task of building discipleship is not easy. I know that, and you know that. It is not easy, but we have the message of eternal life.
We have the message of the good news of the gospel. It's the only message that's worthy of the name, and we must never be ashamed of the gospel, never be ashamed of the gospel. Here's some questions. I want every one of you, every one of you, to ask yourself that question. If every member of the church is like me, what kind of a church would that be? If every member shared Christ as often as I do, if every member brought people to church as I do, if every member attends like I do, would it be a vibrant, Spirit-filled, Bible-believing church? The principle of consolidation is the secret to a vibrant people of God. Consolidation, then there's cooperation. As the people of God got consolidated together they became united in cooperation with one another. Earlier I quoted the psalm, "How beautiful it is when the brethren dwell together in unity"!
Paul speaks of the bond of peace and the spirit of unity. You see, peace within and peace around cannot happen without the power of the Holy Spirit of God uniting us. You see, the bond of peace and the unity of the Spirit must go hand in hand. Factions and dissensions does not bring peace. Unity does, but the human nature the way it is, personality differences, personalities types, an indifference to the call of God, suspicion and conflict, all make the task of rebuilding the walls very difficult, if not impossible. But when all of that is buried and set aside for the sake of Christ, when all of that is submitted to Christ's authority, when all of that takes a backseat to the love of Jesus Christ, when all of that is set aside for the task of obedience to Christ, watch out, and see what God can do.
At that point God gets the glory, but we get the blessing. We get the blessing individually, and we get the blessing corporately. When every member of the body discover his spiritual gift and uses his or her spiritual gifts, God is honored, and we are rewarded. I can't think of a better way than that, and that is why Paul, 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verse 4, he said, "There are different kinds of gifts," here's the diversity, "but then the same Spirit," that's the unity. And Nehemiah's building team was as varied, as diverse, as they come. I already told you, and yet they worked together, why? So that the name of the Lord be lifted. Some removed debris. Some mixed mortars. Some were foremen, and some were chiseling and shaping stones. Some were laying stones. Everyone was doing something, but sadly, like it is the case often, there are some who decided to just sit and watch the others work. And it happened here, believe it or not, right here in chapter 3.
Look at the second part of verse 5. "But the nobles of Tekoa would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervision". Let me tell you when that happens the other workers, the people who are really working and giving of themselves and sacrificing, they get exhausted, and they're gonna be burnt out. But there's something else here I don't want you to miss, I don't want you to miss. Nehemiah lists only the heads of the households. You notice that? He only lists the heads of the household who were taking part in the rebuilding. I wanna explain that. It's important. Back then they really had large families. I mean, they really did. They had very large families, and if they put all the names down you were gonna have to need not just one chapter. You're gonna need several books. And so they did not mention every individual who were taking part in the building of the wall.
They did not mention each individual task that was taking place, and you might think, listen to me, you might think that this was lost to history, and it may be that these individuals, they were lost to history. But, beloved, listen to me. Make no mistake about it. These names were not lost to God. He knows what every individual did in the rebuilding of the wall. In the same way people might not notice all that you do in serving God. People might not notice the quiet contribution that you are making for the work of God. People may never know the incredible sacrifices that you are making to meet needs and to allow the gospel to be proclaimed, but God knows, and he never forgets. And he's the only one who can truly reward you.
Listen to Hebrews 6:10. "God is not unjust; he will not forget," can you say that? "He will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them". Here's the good news, and the good news is this. He is the only one who can truly, adequately reward you anyway. He's the only one that counts, and he is not missing a beat watching you and watching you and watching you and watching you and watching me. One of the great stories that left an impact on me was the story of two ladies who were in a retirement home, one named Ruth, and the other was named Margaret. And in that retirement home both these ladies had a stroke, but before they ever got to retirement they were both accomplished pianists. They were renowned, but when they had the stroke, one stroke affected one in the left side, and the other one affected the right side.
And when the director of the retirement home found that out, he got an idea. He sat them side by side in front of a piano, and if you are a musician you can understand how difficult that is, one playing with the right hand and the other one playing with the left hand. At first it was difficult. It was hard. In fact, it was so discouraging at times, but they persevered, and they persevered, and then they got the hang of it. And one day together, one hand each, they gave a magnificent piano concert. Just as musical harmony is a matter of cooperation, so is the rebuilding of brokenness. There was consolidation. There was cooperation. Finally, there was a confirmation.
One of Nehemiah's tasks was not only helping. He got his hands dirty, and he helped in the rebuilding. But one of his tasks obviously, and you can see that from the text, that he was an encourager. He was a motivator. He was a cheerleader. Let me urge you not to neglect the gift of encouragement. In fact, encouragement begins at home. Let me take a moment to speak to parents. Unfortunately, the way our secular culture has been penetrating into even many Christian homes they're teaching us the wrong things because the popular culture teaches us to give empty praise to our kids. And we need to affirm and confirm our children not with empty praise but with real affirmation.
How do you do that? First you need to major on the majors. Don't only confirm and affirm them when they get an A or just when they shoot a basket or whatever they do. Do you notice I said, "Only"? Do that when they do this. Do it. Affirm them but not only. You must always affirm your love for them all the time. Don't tie that to performance, but reserve the major affirmation and encouraging them when they exhibit godly traits, when they exhibit Christ-like behavior, when they show spiritual growth and maturity, when they show authentic character, when they act in kindness and boldly witness for Christ. That should reserve to them the greatest of encouragement, but always tell them that you love them, not because they did this or not because they did, but you love them.
And the fact that Nehemiah came to Jerusalem from 1,000 miles away, he was living in the lap of luxury in Persia, but he just came in there and started to work, and then he puts all those names down. He may have got some help, but at least he wrote these names down for millions and millions of people to read them throughout history. What a great affirmation and confirmation for the faithfulness of these folks. Now that he wrote their names down he knew them by name. Romans 13:7 said, "Give honor to whom honor is due". Listen, sometimes we forget and take faithfulness for granted. I pray to God that I don't. Sometimes I close my eyes, and as I was preparing this, and I was thinking what the excitement must have been like when all these families all around the wall building and rebuilding and doing work. It must be an exciting thing.
And then I realized, I said, "Now, wait, wait, wait a minute. It is no less amazing that the creator of the universe wants to use you and wants to use me to rebuild desolate lives, to build the broken walls of unbelief, to rebuild the broken walls of false belief systems all around us". It should humble us beyond measure that the God of the universe wants to use us. Now that will get you out of your slump in a hurry and get you out of your grumbling spirit in a hurry. The God of the universe wants to use you. The question is, are you reluctant? Are you indifferent? Do you take that for granted? Are you taking your task for granted and belittling what gift God has given you or why he wants to use you?
Leon Trotsky was one of the leading figures in the Bolshevik Revolution. He was a founding member of the Soviet Union. Trotsky was the first leader in the Soviet Red Army and also one of the first to be a member of the Politburo. Two years before the Bolshevik Revolution he was taken into exile. Guess where? Can you guess? United States. He was in exile in the United States. One Sunday a friend invited him to come and attend a Sunday school class with him in Chicago. So they go along to the Sunday school class, and when Trotsky and his friends arrived in the room, they waited, and they waited, and they waited. And the Sunday school teacher didn't turn up, didn't arrange for somebody to fill in for him. Now I'm not here in judgment. I'm just telling you that sometimes the little things make great impact. And the sad part about this is that Trotsky was so offended by the no show. He really was, and he expressed it. Now I'm convinced that only in heaven will we know whether this was the only one opportunity in which he could've heard the gospel message and the love of Jesus Christ.
In fact, there is no indication that Trotsky ever attended church or Sunday school ever again. But if the teacher had been present or if he'd had somebody else to take his place, be it or somebody else was arranged to share the love of Christ, there is no telling what this young revolutionary, how would he have reacted and how history would have been rewritten. I know some of you say, "Michael, don't you believe in the sovereignty of God"? Hush, nobody believes in the sovereignty of God more than I do, but I also believe in man's responsibility. I believe in faithfulness of man is very important. The Scripture's clear. God longs to use every one of us, and that is why he gave every one of us a spiritual gift, if not more. Will you say, "Here I am, Lord. Use me in the rebuilding"?